Back to the Arizona pomegranate operation. A small portion of the Turley Bowie Pomegranate farm includes a pomegranate research trial conducted by University of Arizona (UA) tree fruit specialist Glenn Wright of Yuma and UA environmental horticulture specialist Ursula Schuch of Tucson.

Wright says 132 plants — 28 pomegranate varieties with four replications — are grown in the Bowie trial. Equivalent trials are also under way at the Yuma Agricultural Center in Yuma, and the UA West Campus Agricultural Center in Tucson.

The varieties in Wright’s trials include Wonderful, Granada, Angel Red, four heirloom varieties including Sosa Carillo, 16 Turkmenistan varieties from Central Asia, and five Japanese ornamental varieties.

Wright said, “The goal of the trials is to determine if pomegranates can be successfully grown in the Arizona desert at different elevations for the fresh market, juice market, or for ornamental use.”

The Tucson trial location is at 2,600 feet in elevation. The Yuma site is about 130-feet in elevation. 

Watering at the Yuma site is with flood irrigation. Like the Bowie site, the Tucson site has subsurface drip.

Wright pursued the trials after several Yuma-area producers asked him to study potential new tree fruit crops for commercial production in the Arizona desert. To fund the project, Wright and Schuch requested and received a three-year, $70,000 specialty crops block grant through the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

Most of the plant material in the trials is from the USDA germplasm repository for deciduous fruits in Davis, Calif. Schuch grew the cuttings in pots at a UA greenhouse in Tucson in 2011. The material was planted at the three sites in Spring 2012.

It is too early, Wright says, to reach a conclusion on whether pomegranates can be successfully grown in the state. He noted one observation from the first year of the trials — the Yuma site had less fruit than the Tucson site.

“I think the major problems we could have in the Yuma area with pomegranates could be sun scald, fruit split, and perhaps less coloration inside and outside the fruit compared to California-grown pomegranates,” Wright said.

The coloration factor could be tied to cooler nights in the fall in California's San Joaquin Valley compared to the Arizona desert.

To view several short videos on pomegranate production, click this link: Pomegranate video.

More information about pomegranates is available at the California Pomegranate Council website: http://pomegranates.org

cblake@farmpress.com

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